We’re well into pumpkin season and I’m almost embarrassed that this is the first pumpkin recipe I’ve shared on the blog, but it sure is a good one to start with. Like most, I love pumpkin. Carving pumpkin, pumpkin puree, pumpkin spice, and of course all food with pumpkin. What’s great and universal about this vegetable is that it pairs well with both sweet and savory dishes: pumpkin risotto, pasta, pie, cookies, ice cream, bread, soup, chilli, pancakes, muffins...etc. I could go on and on with the list, but I’ll spare you the excess.
Besides the pumpkin spice latte (and way before its incarnation), pumpkin has been a staple of the fall season. It’s the ultimate symbol of autumn just like cider, pies, apples, the changing leaves, pumpkin + apple picking are…(have you picked up on a pattern that I associate fall with all things related to food?). And what’s not to love about the harvest! I do frequently miss a freshly picked tomato and ripe peaches, but I also do love hearty root vegetables and warm soups. And today, I’m so excited to share with you this recipe for pumpkin cake!
Oh my! Where do I begin. My mouth is watering as I write this recipe. I can’t explain to you how good this cake is without you trying it yourself. I have to say the easiest part is the baking and the hardest part is trying to not lick the bowl. I made four mini cakes but you could make a full round cake or cupcakes or layered square cakes, or a pumpkin-shaped cake. Have fun with it!
Now let’s get to the best part — the cake. A simple but decadent cake, rich but also light in its layers (sounds like an oxymoron, but trust me, once you try it, you’ll understand), the batter smooth and so it the baking process. There’s no butter, no creaming of sugar nor whipping of eggs, just mixing together the dry and the wet ingredients. It’s just a matter of a few whisks and stirs that will result in a delightfully moist cake in under an hour!
The cake tastes similar to carrot, but lighter and smoother than its cousin. So what better to go with pumpkin than cream cheese. That’s why I decided to make a pumpkin-spiced cream cheese frosting. Because the batter is not too sweet, a rich buttercream pairs wonderfully with the cake. Made with cream cheese, butter, confectioners sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and pumpkin liquor, this frosting is sinfully delicious. The vanilla extract perfumes the cream cheese and elevates the aromas, the cinnamon is added for warmth and spice, and the pumpkin liquor, which is optional and you could substitute heavy cream, lightens the frosting and gives it that extra pumpkin kick.
I used Roundhouse’s Pumpkin King Cordial, but there are many other brands to choose from. This particular one is slightly sweet and not too high in alcohol content so it doesn’t overpower the buttercream (It’s also great over ice cream if you buy it and need to find other uses for it). You could also use a brandy or other flavored liquor if you wish. It’s of course optional, but with all the richness of the cream cheese and butter, a little alcohol helps break up the denseness and lift the mixture.
I made 4 mini cakes by baking the batter on a sheet pan and using a stencil to cut out 3 inch rounds. I love these little individualized cakes because they are fun to make and feel personal. It’s a great party activity whether you’re decorating or serving these to your guests. Something about having an individual cake versus a slice makes it all that more special. As mentioned above, this batter will work for any kind of cake mold or cupcake. Just note that the cooking time will vary per method.
These pumpkin mini cakes are perfect Thanksgiving, Halloween (you could dye the frosting black for a spooky theme) or for a fall gathering. These cakes are fantastically festive, incredibly delicious, and so easy to make. I find that the frosting is best the next day. The flavors start to settle and come together and the pumpkin aromas intensify.
It’s a quick cake that you’ll surely want to keep the recipe on hand, if friends or family are coming over. It’s sure to impress and you’ll be even happier once you taste it yourself!
If you make the mini cakes you will probably have some trimmings left over. You can eat it or you can save it (along with extra frosting you have left over) and make some fun, spooky Halloween treats, which are coming up in the next post! So stayed tuned - you won’t want to miss it!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 10x15in sheet pan with parchment paper. Grease with butter and dust with flour, dumping out the excess.
In bowl, sift together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk and set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and pumpkin spices until thoroughly incorporated. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet indregients and stir until just combined. Pour the batter onto the sheet pan, making sure all edges and corners are reached. Smooth the top with a spatula to create an even layer. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove and let cool completely.
To make the cream cheese frosting:
Using an electric beater or standard mixture, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract until light and fluffy, a few minutes. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Add the cinnamon and pumpkin liquor and whisk until completely incorporated. If the frosting is too thick, add more pumpkin liquor, if too thin, add more sugar. Transfer to a piping bag or ziploc bag (you could also skip this step and use a spatula to apply the frosting) and place in the fridge while you cut out the cake.
Using a round stencil, 3 inches in diameter (I used the top of the pumpkin puree can, but you can use stencil you like), cut out equal-sized circles from the sheet cake. To assemble, place one cake round and pipe or spoon on a layer of frosting. Place another cake round on top and repeat until you’ve reached three layers (or how many you like / or as many before it looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa). If your cakes lean and you are nervous they’ll fall over, stick some wooden dowels in the center for support. Frost the top layer with more buttercream and garnish with some pumpkin seeds for decoration. Serve and enjoy!
Time: about 1 hour
Makes: 4 mini cakes + cake scraps (use for recipe coming up next!)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree (or 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
to make the cream cheese frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1 stick (or 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons pumpkin liquor
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds for garnish